Is It the Dawn of the Encryption App?

We might live in an age of persistent and pervasive surveillance. The recent revelations about the secret National Security Agency programs aimed at collecting vast amounts of data on Americans and foreigners seemingly confirm what tinfoil-wearing netizens have feared for years: They're watching us; technology has turned against its users.

Amidst prying eyes, a small but growing group of hackers and programmers is working on applications that use cryptography — the science of creating techniques to hide data and render it readable only to intended recipients — to fight surveillance and give regular citizens access to what was once only reserved to computer experts.

It's a battle of geek-made encryption apps against their uniformed snooping foes.



And the spying agencies of the world are getting more adversaries every day. In fact, there are so many apps it's almost impossible to list them all: Silent CircleCryptocatRedphone,Text SecureWickr (which Mashable has previously reported on), OstelGibberbot. The list goes on and on.

"These encryption apps could well be the first wave in an entirely new revolution — one that makes truly private communication a reality," writes Matthew Green, a cryptography researcher and professors at Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute.

Both new and old faces are riding this new wave of crytpo.

One of the apps that has gathered more attention, Silent Circle, has a familiar face at the helm: longtime cryptographer Phillip Zimmermann, who created the popular email and data encryption software Pretty Good Privacy — better known as PGP — in the early 1990s.


Zimmermann and some of his closest collaborators from the PGP years launched Silent Circle last year. It's not just an app; it's a subscription service that comprises a suite of programs that replaces one's regular apps to make calls, send texts, emails and even do videoconferencing, for $10 a month. The apps use end-to-end encryption to ensure that the communication between two Silent Circle users is secure and impossible to read, except by their intended recipients.

The service biggest strength is that it's supposed to be easy to use, and since day one, its creators have had in mind the lessons of the past. While PGP is the gold standard to encrypt data, even after 20 years, it's still very hard to use for regular computer users. Now the idea is to make privacy-enhancing tools easy for everybody to use.

"Not everyone is a crypto geek, and so there is a need to curate the experience," says Zimmermann.

"Not everyone is a crypto geek, and so there is a need to curate the experience," says Zimmermann. "You know howSteve Jobs talks about curated computing? Well, this is curated crypto."


Vinnie Moscaritolo, Silent Circle's "distinguished member of technical staff," echoes the same concept, saying that they "intentionally make [Silent Circle] look like regular apps you use." Because the idea is that "you just sit down and you use it."

Its other big strength is that the keys, used to encrypt and decrypt the communications, aren't managed by Silent Circle itself. So technically, not even the company can know what two users are telling or writing each other. Silent Circle uses the so-called Public Key cryptography, a scheme that allows two people to swap keys and communicate securely, preventing a snooper from interceptinging their communications. (To know more about how this works, watch the below video.)

Happy 5th Birthday, Evernote!

"We’re excited (and a bit scared) about abandoning the relative shelter of the private beta for the open waters ahead," Evernote CEO Phil Libin wrote on the company's blog on June 24, 2008. "But if we’re really going to expand everyone’s memory, we’ve got to let everyone in."

As it turns out, Libin and the Evernote team didn't have too much to be "scared" about. The note-taking app hit 1 million registered users less than a year later and topped 10 million users almost exactly three years after its public launch.

Now, five years after its launch, Evernote has more than 65 million users worldwide and more than 300 employees. The startup has raised $250 million in funding to date and is widely expected to go public within the next few years.

Evernote released a video to commemorate its five-year anniversary, which you can watch above, as well as a special landing page encouraging users to share their Evernote accomplishments. Evernote is also emailing the first million people who signed up for the service to thank them and tell them which number user they were.

Image courtesy of YouTube, EvernoteVideos

Vine Adds Verified Badges

It’s not exactly easy to tell if someone is who they say they are on Vine, Twitter’s new video-sharing app. Case in point: There’s an account with the username Vine. Who is it? Hard to tell — maybe it’s run by the company; maybe it’s an unknown, opportunistic individual.

Duplicate usernames and easily faked profiles mean it’s difficult to ascertain the legitimacy of high-profile Viners (if that’s what we’re calling them). For now, our best way to tell who’s who on Vine is if verified Twitter accounts plug their six-second videos, or if they pop up when you look for people to follow via connected Twitter accounts

This is the new Vimeo.

We’re in the process of transitioning all our members and visitors to the brand new Vimeo. You’re on it right now!

We made zillions of improvements that cover the front end, the back end, and the parts in between to create a Vimeo that is bigger, faster, and more fun. Scroll down to see what’s new.

Brand New Video Page

The new Vimeo brings even more focus to your videos with a video page that is more cinematic, with a larger, full-width video player and fewer distractions. Your eyeballs are going to adore it. We've also reorganized commonly used tools and creatednew keyboard shortcuts so you can navigate to the next video, “like” a video, or go full-screen without lifting a finger (off your keyboard, anyway).




Better Browsing

Our video browser (the cool kids here call it the “brozar”) now sits on top of the video page and stays hidden until you need it. To access it, click the “More Videos” flag in the upper right corner of any video page, or use the keyboard shortcut “M.” The video browser also provides more ways to discover things you like. Jump to your feed (see below), recently watched videos, watch later list, and more, all from one convenient spot.